Genres: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Steampunk
Series: Finishing School #1
Source: My shelves
It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.
Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education.
I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for years when I bought it as a last-minute addition to my Book Outlet haul, the addition for the sole intention of getting my total over $35 to get free shipping on my purchase. So this year, in dire need of a steampunk book towards the completion of the Romance Roundabout Reading Challenge, a year-long challenge where I am given 13 sub-categories (of which steampunk is one of them) and I read 1, 3 or 5 of each category. Me, being an overachiever, chose to read five. But in the face of the new year … I needed a quick steampunk to read and fast, and turned my head to see this little lovely already sitting on my shelf.
I went into this one with zero expectations and no knowledge of what it entailed… and I was so pleasantly surprised by it! Honestly, this book reads exactly like a steampunk version of Harry Potter! Who knew that’s exactly what I needed in my life? I never really read the Gallagher Girls series… but I’ve seen the comparison that this is a steampunk version of that series and from what I know, it seems accurate. But with paranormal elements, of course.
The story follows fourteen-year-old Sophronia Temminnick, who just got “exiled,” at least in her mind, to finishing school. She’s a bit of a rough-and-tumble sort, willing to go off and have adventures, going wherever her curiosity takes her and is described as nobody as “lady.” But little does she know that this is not a normal kind of finishing school. She will learn social cues, dancing, and eyelash-fluttering, sure, but she also learns poisons, seduction, weaponry, and other methods of information-gathering.
“No one said learning etiquette and espionage would be easy, my dear.”
The world itself, in which Etiquette and Espionage is set, what very well written. The whole story, really, was stimulating, fun, and charming. I was absolutely charmed by each one of these characters, and especially by Miss Sophronia and Soap. Sophronia is 14 years old, and the younger age of the characters is definitely reflected in the story’s tone, so it does read very much like a middle-grade novel. I would have preferred as the more complex writing and elements that come with older characters, but I absolutely adored the story as it was, so I couldn’t complain, especially with the younger, whimsically curious tone that it carried. Really, my usual preferences aside, it was written perfectly for what it was, and I’m sure the stories will grow with the character.
Sophronia herself was so very charming and clever. She was practical and confident, and she was a glorious character to follow because of it. We got to see her evolve, yes, but she never really changed who she was, and I appreciated that. At the heart of Sophronia is someone who will follow her curiosity to the ends of the Earth, and it was really a joy to read and follow.
This book involved more sneaking around, risky escapades, and intelligence-gathering than it did secrets, but there were plenty of little daring excursions sprinkled throughout that kept me glued to the story. Not to mention the amazingly fun cast of side characters! They were a joy. It also had a very sarcastic sense of humor, with tongue-in-cheek one-liners that would have me chuckling. It was a strange sense of humor, mostly because it was so clearly from a younger perspective (and so well-written for that), but it was absolutely an adventure I can’t wait to return to.
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Have you ever read a steampunk book? What books have caught you by surprise recently? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!